Friday, June 03, 2005

So, the new NBC summer reality series Hit Me Baby 1 More Time premiered last night, and though the work continues fast and furious, I thought I'd try to offer at least a brief opinion on the proceedings. I enjoyed it and will watch again, but it really could've been better if they'd put forth just a little effort. The basic set-up, if you didn't see it, is they take five former pop stars and have them compete against each other, singing "their biggest hit" and then their interpretation of some recent hit. In between they have a little filmed segment for each star showing what they have been up to since their days on top, and that part is where I think some extra effort could have best been directed. Because for everyone they just showed where they live now and had a few shots of them them walking around, maybe laying down some tracks in the studio, and then quickly flipped back to show them performing their second song of the evening. I know they aren't going to be doing some in-depth Behind The Music style dirt digging here, but maybe cut the contestants each week down to four and tell us SOMEthing about how they fell out of the spotlight, what that was like, what they've actually been doing (it was abundantly obvious that Tiffany has had breast augmentation and you could probably guess that she was in Playboy a few years ago if you weren't already aware, but that is the sort of fun fact that audiences are going to be curious to learn more about, and such curiosity was not satisfied last night). Also a little more about how they got started maybe, some backstage action, their thoughts about the competition... it wouldn't be hard to spruce this thing up into something semi-fascinating instead of mildly entertaining. BUT as things stand it was at least mildly entertaining, which is much better than decidedly off-putting, as I find the majority of these shows to be. Last night's former stars were Loverboy, A Flock of Seagulls, CeCe Peniston, Arrested Development, and Tiffany. I'd heard that Tiffany won the first week on the British version of this show, which only started in April, beating out Howard Jones, Gloria Gaynor, The Honeyz, and Limahl, though it appears that when all seven winners battled it out in the finals Shakin' Stevens took the crown. They just win a donation to their favorite charity, too, which might be ok for Loverboy, who probably still make off royalities and going on Styx/REO Speedwagon/April Wine package tours, but I have a feeling Tiffany might be a worthy charity all on her own... I guess they get exposure, but they all get that whether they win or not. Anyhow, I missed most of Loverboy performing Working For The Weekend, and found their cover choice of Hero by Enrique Iglesias to be a very lame pick. I don't have my Billboard Top Pop Hits book with me here at work, but I'm fairly certain that none of Loveboy's many hits was a ballad, and if one was it was at least a power ballad (also, this is the act that caused me to put "their biggest hit" in quotes earlier, because Working For The Weekend was far from Loverboy's biggest hit, it only peaked at #29 - I believe Lovin' Every Minute Of It, Hot Girls In Love, When It's Over and possibly more made the top ten (AND, to get doubly parenthetical, I see I've listed a power ballad right there)). They did not do much of a unique Loverboy-style interpretation of the song either, though it was entirely competent and showed that their vocalist can still sing pretty well. The same could not be said for A Flock Of Seagulls, though honestly that guy could never sing very well. I liked plenty of fruity new wave and synth pop back when I Ran came out, and still do, but A Flock Of Seagulls always seemed like crap to me and they continue to seem so today. They did some recent hit that I'd never heard of, so perhaps they did make it their own or maybe it was just that horrible in the first place, I cannot say. My thoughts about CeCe Peniston are few, other than to note that the British show had Rozalla on one week and that would have been a slightly more interesting early 90's pop house diva to see in my opinion. I also think she may have missed a couple notes on her Faith Hill cover, but again I am not familiar with the original. Tiffany did a good job on I Think We're Alone Now, which I think was her biggest hit - interestingly I don't think it was ever mentioned that it's a Tommy James and the Shondells song - but she dropped the ball on her cover choice. Kelly Clarkson was a shrewd pick since most of the audience for this show are probably the same folks who love American Idol, but Tiffany really has a Stevie Nicksy voice which would be well-suited to rocking (yes, I do own the first two Tiffany albums, and some of the non-hit tracks showed that off better than the singles) and that recent Clarkson hit Since You've Been Gone would've been great, especially since that is the only American Idol spawned hit that shockingly did not suck ass in my opinion. But she picked some boring ballad, which appeared to be the personal theme song of some middle-aged middle-manager lady who was singing along in the audience. And finally Arrested Development, who always got on my nerves during their brief stay at the top but were clearly the cream of the crop here. This is also the group that I most would've liked to seen a real "what have you been up to and what the fuck happened to your career?" piece on, because their sudden drop-off has always confused me. My first thought is that they hit right at the end of the late-80's/early 90's afro-centric tribal hippie wave of hip-hop which was totally eclipsed when The Chronic came out in between their first and second album, but on further reflection their was still plenty of NPR-friendly crap after that, like The Fugees for instance, or The Roots, or Blackeyed Peas... I was going to add Digable Planets, but I think they also largely disappeared after 1993. My second thought was that the old grey-bearded man who was always in the group but never did anything at all except sway a little and clap his hands (taking the title of world's least-useful band member from that guy in Frankie Goes to Hollywood who only played the tambourine in the process) had died and they couldn't go on without him, but he there he was swaying and clapping last night so that's not it either. What happened, Speech? Anyhow, they're still as good as they ever were, and though I was yet again unfamiliar with the recent hit, it ended up sounding like an Arrested Development song so I think they were they only group to really offer a uniquely personal interpretation of their cover all evening. And the audience rightfully picked them as the winner and now UNICEF is getting $20,000 for Sudanese relief. Next week it'll be The Knack vs. The Motels vs. Vanilla Ice vs. Tommy Tutone vs. Haddaway... wait vs. who now? Oh right, what is love don't hurt me don't hurt me no more, he's this week's CeCe Peniston. The interesting thing will be to see Vanilla Ice because he's obviously going to have to do Ice Ice Baby and I thought he was violently opposed to being associated with that song anymore (though I have no idea why, I think Ice Ice Baby is really good, and it's not just the Under Pressure sample because I much prefer it to the Queen/Bowie original source). But what's he gonna do, Play That Funky Music? Also, I really wish the Knack would do Good Girls Don't instead of My Sharona, but that won't happen either. In any case, I will be watching and getting mildly entertained again next week, and I'll keep you posted on what I find.


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